Ariculture CS Mithika Linturi spoke after touring Gold Crown Foods EPZ firm in Shimanzi in Mombasa. PHOTO by Haniel Mengistu

The cost of Unga (Maize Flour) is set to significantly drop by the end of February to cushion Kenyans from the high cost of living, Agriculture CS Mithika Linturi has announced.

Speaking after touring Gold Crown Foods EPZ firm in Shimanzi in Mombasa,Linturi said the local production deficit is still huge thus the government will continue to  import maize and rice to sustain the demand in the country.

“As we plan ourselves to grow food in the next six months or so, our plan is to bring you maize to get Unga, and I want to announce by the end of February, the price of Unga will come down,” Linturi said.

In December 2022 Kenyan government waived import duty on maize and rice for a period of six months to ease shortage of the cereals and avert a food crisis.

“We are going to import maize and Rice, we are not doing it because we want, but because the projections are so bad that if we don’t do it our people will continue to suffer,” said Linturi.

The cost of a two-kilogramme packet of maize flour has increased by 32.2 per cent over the past 12 months, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), and is retailing at over Ksh 200.

Kenya’s maize production has fluctuated in the past eight years, with its highest production being in 2018 when it produced 44.6 million bags and the lowest being in 2017 when the country produced 35.4 million bags.

The local maize production deficit has forced the country to rely on imports to address the shortage. Linturi said the government will continue to rely on imports as farmers ready themselves for a harvest later this year.

Rice is the third most consumed staple in the country but most of the cereal consumed locally is imported. Kenya imported 630,910 tonnes of rice in 2021 valued at Ksh 31.14 billion ($252.9 million), according to KNBS. Only 186,000 tonnes of rice paddy were produced locally.

Linturi who was accompanied by officials from the Agriculture ministry said the government is in plan to put under Agriculture above 1 Million hectares of public land in the ADC, NYS and Prisons land to produce more food for the country.

“All public land owned by government entities should be put into use, we need to produce more food and we are in the process of identifying how we will do it by mechanization, we have planned a meeting next week with these agencies to plan ahead,” said Linturi.

On the issue of drought situation in the country, the cabinet secretary stated that the livestock off take program will continue until the drought situation in the country is suppressed by the mitigation measures put by the government including planting of trees.

“The food relief is not sustainable, but we will continue giving people relief or humanitarian support, because it’s necessary for us as a government to cushion our people,” said Linturi.

He said the off take program is getting good feedback as some p[arts of the country are now experiencing reliable rainfall that has seen growth of vegetation for  livestock to consume.

He said the Government is embarking on a program that will control livestock wandering, which has cost livestock farmers dearly.

“We want to change the mindset of pastoralists so that they can change the mindset, as a long term program, because that wandering of livestock is no longer working, but am sure in the course of time, in partnership with development partners, we will achieve our goals,” said Linturi.

By Fred Odanga Azelwa.